John Lennon would take to the main stage of a huge stadium for the very last time. The singer would join Elton John on the glittering stage of Madison Square Garden to perform three wonderful tunes, including ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’.
John had avoided the stage for a long while before joining Elton on the stage. Having decided with The Beatles to become a studio band some years ago and continued much of the same practices (bar a few special appearances) with his solo career, John wouldn’t have joined the Rocketman if it wasn’t for him losing a bet.
The story goes that after John had asked Elton to help him on his new track ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’, the duo came to an agreement. Elton had been in the studio providing harmonies and piano on the tune during the summer of 1974. It was during these sessions that Elton made a wager with John about how the track would do in the charts. It provided some joyful consequences.
John opened up about the glorious moment in a BBC interview just a few short days before his untimely death, and we’ll leave it to the Beatle to pick up the story. “Elton was in town and I was doing it and needed the harmony. He did the harmony on that and a couple more, and played beautiful piano on it. And jokingly, he was telling me he was going to do this Madison Square Garden concert — he said, ‘Will you do it with me if the record’s Number One?’”
“And I did not expect it to get to Number One at all. I didn’t think it had a chance in hell. I said, ‘Sure, sure, sure I will.’”
‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’ would be John’s first solo number over the pond which meant Lennon would have to pay up, “‘OK, it’s time to pay your dues!’ It was the first Number One I had, actually. ‘Imagine’ wasn’t Number One, ‘Instant Karma’ wasn’t Number One — which I all think are better records than ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.’ (The) words are pretty good. But anyway, so what could we sing, that was the point.”
The pair had not been a friend long, having only met in 1973 despite sharing the same publisher, the duo got on famously. Elton reflected on their friendship, “We got on like a house on fire and we hung out for a couple of years; I found him very kind, very funny. I don’t know why we clicked, but we did and he clicked with my band and he clicked with the people around me. And we had so much fun. I was quite intimidated by him, because I knew he was razor sharp and could be very abrasive. But that side never came out with me — only the kind side and the funny side.”
John, dutifully agreed to the show and made his way to Madison Square Gardens to perform three songs with Elton. Taking on their co-created ‘Whatever Gets You thru The Night’, then playing ‘Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds’ a song that Elton and John had re-recorded earlier that year, and Elton’s then-current single and The Beatles’ own song ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. The three songs complete a memorable evening for all those involved. It made for a very happy Thanksgiving for all those who attended.